I’ve been privately calling the Care Director at my mom’s place Nurse Ratched since one of the residents told me the place reminds her of the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” It’s not an entirely appropriate moniker – for one thing, she’s not even a nurse – but being snarky about her inside my head helps diffuse my frustration with her. Sometimes.
This morning while we were waiting for my mom to see the doctor on his monthly visit to the facility, I overheard a conversation between Nurse Ratched and another resident’s son. He was asking to speak with the doctor for a few minutes privately before bringing in his mother because he didn’t want to bring up his concerns about his mother’s increasing dementia symptoms in front of her. Nurse Ratched seemed to be objecting to this, though I don’t know why she would. The son brought up an incident recently where his mother hadn’t recognized her favorite jacket, citing this as an example of a new type of confusion different from the short term memory issues he was used to her having.
“Well, you should have heard her the other day after you left!” Nurse Ratched said, in a tone best described as callous. “She was demanding to know who that nasty man was who was bossing her around.”
The son, sounding utterly deflated, asked quietly “She didn’t know who I was?”
Still in the same flippant voice, Nurse Ratched answered “No, she didn’t. She just kept complaining about how nasty you were, making her do things she didn’t want to do.” I thought I heard something almost gleeful in that tone, as if she was spitefully enjoying taking him down a peg.
I don’t know the background behind this exchange or any of the interpersonal dynamics in play with these people, but it made me flinch to hear the news that sometimes this mother does not recognize her own son delivered in such a cold-hearted manner. I dread the day when my mother no longer knows me, as I’m sure all family members of dementia patients dread that day. Is a little tact and compassion from the people we pay to care for our dementia patients really too much to ask?
It was already clear to me that this care director lacked knowledge about dementia – as evidenced by watching her shout at the poor old man who couldn’t remember how to swallow, as if he was just being stubborn and yelling “Swallow! Swallow!” in his ear would do the trick, and other similar incidents. Now I see that she’s lacking in compassion as well. I really want to get my mom away from Nurse Ratched and her poisonous attitude before she takes another cognitive decline.